Kenya’s democracy grows amidst political turmoil

Kenya’s politics is a rollercoaster ride for both the political players and the ordinary citizen. One year after post-election chaos, the political arena is reminiscent of old tribal-political struggles, but a new self-awareness as a result of the delicate political balance now seems to keep politicians on their toes.
Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki (left) and opposition leader Raila Odinga (right) as Prime Minister.
Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki (left) and opposition leader Raila Odinga (right) as Prime Minister.

Kenya’s politics is a rollercoaster ride for both the political players and the ordinary citizen. One year after post-election chaos, the political arena is reminiscent of old tribal-political struggles, but a new self-awareness as a result of the delicate political balance now seems to keep politicians on their toes.

Presidential succession politics are in a high gear, never mind that the next election is four years from away. Corruption scandals have returned to haunt the government. Impunity by corrupt leaders has been replaced by fear, not transparency, yet.

If it is not the illegal sale of Grand regency hotel to Libyans at a throw away price, it is the selling of maize meant for famine relief to private businesspersons.

Parliamentarians are either busy increasing their salaries, refusing to pay taxes or accusing each other of this or the other ill – your vintage Kenya.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have had a curiously smooth relationship. One wonders why they went for each other’s jugular in 2007.

They present a picture too similar to 2002, when the then NARC presidential candidate nursing his injuries from a campaign trip accident in a London hospital while the energetic Raila cheer-led for the ailing soon-to-be-president at political rallies.

Perhaps Kibaki and Raila have discovered their destiny woven in the same cloth. Or much more likely, each have something up their sleeves, which do not coincide the way their common desire for presidency, did in 2007. After all, one man is on his home, while the other, on his way up!

Just like after the 2002 election when the Kibaki-led government failed to deliver a new constitution courtesy of a spirited fight from none other than Cabinet Minister Raila and his Orange Democratic Movement, today the special tribunal to try post-election violence suspects was surprisingly defeated in parliament even after getting the backing of both main players.

Again, the problem is and has always been the individual short-term interests of various political players derailing urgent need for Kenyans to move ahead democratically.

During the referendum battles between Raila’s ODM and the Kibaki’s banana camps, one of the sticking points was the powers of a proposed prime minister.

ODM wanted an executive prime minister elected by parliament and a ceremonial president because the prevailing opinion then was that Raila could not win a presidential election, so an executive prime minister was his best shot at a self-declared lifelong ambition to rule Kenya.

The banana camp’s argument was that a directly elected president could hold less power than an indirectly elected Prime Minister. No wonder the same man took the cameo role of premier. Now everybody knows that Raila can win a presidential election.

Today, the proposed special tribunal to try suspects accused of a role in the post election violence is dogged by the fact that the chief culprits are people sitting in the same parliament and cabinet, some of whom belong in different camps aligned to 2012 succession politics.

Again, there is a clear disregard by politicians of the real issues that Kenyans want addressed, justice to be served out and a constitution that is more democratic and which assures the most basic freedoms to Kenyans.

Amidst all these political struggles, the real plight of Kenyans is almost ignored as always, except when they Kenyan force it upon their leaders to listen to them. That happens to be every around another election, then its back to business as usual.

Get into power and make as much money as you can so that in the next election you have some left over to win more votes and power.

Kenyans face an ever-increasing food shortage, the routine other than the exception. Prices of basic commodities have gone up like anywhere else in the world.

Kenyans are very disappointed by the coalition government, which apart from surviving its own demise has failed to deliver on any of its promises.

On the positive side, a level of political maturity compared to many African nations is evident. The perfectly poised political mood ensures that a return to the dictatorial rule of the Moi days, in not on the cards. Today, a whiff of corruption is enough to set loose the press and country against any leader.

Even party affiliation is no guarantee of support for a suspected corrupt leader. There are improvements in freedom of speech despite a recent parliamentary bill that sought to curtail the media (but now journalists can openly contest the president’s decision!

During his address on a public holiday) It is not impossible for an incumbent president to lose, it happened in 2002, and unofficially in 2007. If you are the kind who cherishes vote rigging, well, in Kenya you have to think thrice, before you act.

Contact: kelviod@yahoo.com

 

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